Kitchen Tip du Jour: Do the Math on Paper First When Multiplying a Recipe

Do you ever need to double, triple or make it half or one third of a recipe?  If so, read on…  It could be your life saver (or at least your dinner saver!)

When you are following a recipe, and need to change the portion, don’t do the math in your head.  Write it down — ideally right next to the original volume of each ingredient, and how many serving it is for.  If you cannot write it down next to it (say, it’s your friend’s cook book, the recipe is online and your printer is broken, etc.), then at least write down the original measurement on a piece of paper, and write down the multiplier and do the math.

For example:

Original recipe  2 servings                          Your portion: 6 servings (6/2=3 is the multiplier.)

1 Egg                                             X3                  3 Eggs

4 oz flour                                    X3                  12 oz flour

2/3 cup water                          X3                  6/3 cup = 2 cups water

As you can see, especially when you have to deal with 3 (especially 1/3) it gets complicated. 

This is even more true when you are using a recipe from a different country — meaning those who uses metric system.  Since I grew up in Japan with metric system, I used to get confused with American measurement of oz and pounds often, resulting in quite a bit of frustration and less than perfect dishes.  Once I start writing them down, all I need to do is just to follow that amount.  Believe me, do the math first, then cook is so much easier than trying to do the math as you prep and cook! That kind of switch-tasking or multi/tasking end up costing you a lot of time.

So rather than trying to save time and end up with huge frustration and disappointment (and an inedible dish), take time to do the math on paper first when changing th portion of a recipe.  And as always, when adding stronger flavored ingredients and seasoning, taste as you add them gradually.  The same is true for liquids (water, broth etc.)

The biggest bonus: By writing down the convenient portion for yourself directly on the recipe, you will save the time to do the math next time!

So just remember to write them down!

Do you have any kitchen tips that help you save time and frustration? Look forward to hearing your tips in the comment section!

PS: This hold true for most of the things, especially for cooking that doesn’t require much chemistry or precision, yet not EVERYTHING is multiplied ie oil, salt, baking soda, baking powder.  Thank you Sam, for pointing that out.

  If you are cooking for a crowd, this resource gives you further details about super-sizing a recipe. 

 Another resource about reducing a recipe portion.  This one also talks about cooking time difference, etc. 

As a rule of thumb, the cooking time is affected by the type and size of the pan (esp. the bottom surface) heat, how much moisture the food cooked has etc. so it’s best to determine how much longer you need to cook by the look, smell and taste/texture.  Remember, a recipe is a guideline, not rules.


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